Multinational insurance giant AXA has boosted its investments in Israeli companies that make weapons to kill Palestinians and that finance the theft of their land for colonization.
AXA’s investments in arms manufacturer Elbit Systems and five major Israeli banks increased from $66 million in 2018 to over $91 million this year, according to a new report commissioned by global corporate watchdog SumOfUs.
The report says AXA’s investments “may expose the company to criminal prosecution for complicity in gross human rights violations, including war crimes under both French and International law.”
SumOfUs is urging France-based AXA to divest from these firms in order to comply with international human rights standards and French law.
Testing weapons on Palestinian civilians
Elbit Systems is Israel’s biggest arms maker. It produces internationally banned cluster munitions, white phosphorus bombs and most of the drones the Israeli military uses to attack Palestinian civilians.
Israel used cluster bombs with devastating effect against civilians during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon.
Elbit also makes equipment for Israel’s annexation and separation wall in the occupied West Bank, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, and to enforce Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli army buys weapons from this company and tests them on Palestinian civilians to see how they kill, maim or injure; then, this company goes on to export its weapons under the label ‘battle tested’ or ‘combat proven,’” the report notes.
Financing war crimes
AXA and its affiliates also hold tens of millions of dollars worth of shares and bonds in Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, Israel Discount Bank and First International Bank of Israel.
These banks provide the financial backbone for building, maintaining and expanding Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Israel’s construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land is a war crime.
The Coalition Stop AXA Complicity with Israeli Apartheid has launched an online campaign so that individuals can send a message to AXA managers in France, Germany, Switzerland and Egypt demanding that the company divest.
Groups from nine countries in Europe and the Arab world participate in the coalition which has organized demonstrations outside AXA offices and at its annual shareholders meeting in Paris.
“An insurer should protect lives,” said Alys Samson Estapé, the Europe coordinator for Palestine’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).
“Instead, AXA is profiting from the destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods.”
Estapé added that Palestinian civil society has called on firms “to cut ties of complicity” with companies directly involved in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
“Israel can only maintain its regime of occupation and apartheid over the Palestinian people through support from governments and companies such as AXA,” BDS France coordinator Imen Habib said.
“As long as AXA maintains its investments in these Israeli banks and Elbit Systems, protests by our growing global coalition will intensify.”
Two years ago, 70 organizations, political parties and trade unions urged AXA to divest from the Israeli banks and Elbit Systems.
In a tweet, the BNC, the steering group for the Palestinian BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – campaign, called for increased pressure on AXA.